Assessment of parent and child behaviors in mildly handicapped as compared to nonhandicapped preschool populations

Mary Alice Tucker, Marquette University


Recent theory development and legal mandates have emphasized the role of the family in the preschool child's development. Nevertheless, the collective knowledge of the mildly handicapped preschool child in the context of the family is sparse. In addition, family focused assessment strategies which are appropriate to the role of the school psychologist are limited. These obstacles can lead to incomplete and ineffective early intervention programs. This study examined parenting and child problem behavior differences of mildly handicapped as compared to nonhandicapped preschoolers, reciprocal parent-child interactions, and the diagnostic utility of a family assessment strategy. The subjects were 125 middle to upper-middle SES, intact, predominantly white families with children between the ages of three years two months to five years six months. Sixty-five mildly handicapped children were drawn from twelve suburban school districts. Sixty nonhandicapped children were drawn from four private suburban preschools. Mothers completed a consent form, a general information form, the Child Behavior Checklist, and the Parenting Inventory. Analyses of covariance determined that the mildly handicapped preschoolers displayed significantly higher levels of internalizing and total behavior problems than their nonhandicapped peers as measured by the Child Behavior Checklist. In addition, mothers of mildly handicapped preschoolers had significantly lower developmental expectations for their children as measured by the Parenting Inventory. The research failed to find differences between groups in either the discipline or nurturing parenting styles, or in externalizing child behaviors. Correlational techniques found increases in discipline to be positively related to increases in externalizing behavior. Finally, based on stepwise discriminant analysis, the Parenting Inventory taken together with the Child Behavior Checklist correctly differentiated the mildly handicapped from the nonhandicapped group in 78 percent of the cases. As part of a school psychologist's comprehensive battery using multiple sources of information, the PI and CBCL taken together would assist in decision making when determining eligibility for exceptional education services according to Public Law 94-142 and 99-457. In addition, both family strengths and needs are assessed leading to improved intervention programs.

Recommended Citation

Tucker, Mary Alice, "Assessment of parent and child behaviors in mildly handicapped as compared to nonhandicapped preschool populations" (1992). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI9318933.